‘The Whale’ TIFF Review: A Shattering Comeback for Brendan Fraser

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When you look at the premise for a film like The Whale, one can only imagine how this premise could be difficult to pull off successfully. In the hands of a filmmaker like Darren Aronofsky, much suspicions could be raised, but he manages to pull off what might be his most hopeful film thus far. Perhaps that’s not to say he doesn’t find himself potentially dragging his viewers back into a territory of simple misery porn when the central focus is Brendan Fraser’s character and his deathly obesity, yet the case being presented is far more thoughtful. And like Requiem for a Dream was for many, The Whale can be tough – but when Darren Aronofsky is at his best, he shows himself to be a wholly thoughtful filmmaker. This is where I find The Whale lands.

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The Fountain – Review

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There was a point I remember having loved the films of Darren Aronofsky, and back then I remembered not liking The Fountain much. But now I’ve only found his films to be strenuous experiences aside from The Wrestler, and with all of this in mind I was not especially compelled to give The Fountain another go. To say the least, I’ve only found myself warming up to The Fountain more on rewatch, because it seems to be a case where Aronofsky is both maintaining his own style and telling a story that I’m not even sure can be repeated in the same manner. Aronofsky had always been a director who appears to do so much for the eyes yet his narratives are not quite the same level, oftentimes to the most excruciating results (Requiem for a Dream and Black Swan), but The Fountain is a story that only feels right being as showy as it is, it’s Aronofsky at his most expressive.

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Black Swan – Review

✯½

I’ve soured on Darren Aronofsky heavily over the years: I remember when I first saw Requiem for a Dream and initially I thought that it was an emotionally draining experience and now it only ever manages to ring me as exploitative of its own characters’ misery at the hands of an agreeable message. But this was not something I found to be exclusive towards said film, because Black Swan, which may very well be his worst film yet, only manages to rub me in the wrong way for similar reasons. But for the many shortcomings of Requiem for a Dream, it never felt condescending in the way that Black Swan was, among many reasons it has only ever managed to leave such a bitter taste in my mouth. It seems so insistent that perfection leads to equally perfect art, and it’s a product so explicitly mechanical its own message only falls down upon itself and the one thought that came to my mind after finishing up read: “this is why I hate Darren Aronofsky.”

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Mother! – Review

½

As far as my own opinions of Darren Aronofsky have gone, I think it’s clear enough that I’m not a fan. I like only two of his films (The Fountain and The Wrestler) whereas the rest seem so drenched in showing off how distinctive they are to the point the experience would become agonizing. And it was among many reasons I greatly disliked Black Swan because oftentimes Aronofsky isn’t hiding narrative choices that often resemble better works under a layer of weirdness that ultimately adds up to nothing. But what exactly does one get if they can imagine all the worst qualities of Black Swan cranked up to the maximum? The final result of that is Mother!, because it almost feels like being pummelled by everything about him as a director that continuously has annoyed me.

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